Fracking with super critical CO2

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers trial waterless frack fluid with partner Chesapeake.

The October 2015 issue of 1663, the Los Alamos national laboratory’s (LANL) science and technology magazine, Craig Tyler investigates ‘what’s lacking with fracking.’ As US electricity production shifts from coal to cheap shale gas, per-capita emissions of carbon dioxide have dropped to a level not seen since the 1960s. LANL has been looking into the technical and environmental challenges associated with shale production. Fracking only produces some 15% of gas in place and turns a lot of freshwater into ‘highly toxic’ wastewater. While the risk from chemical additives used in fracking may have been overplayed, produced water is more problematical, containing large quantities of naturally occurring salts, heavy metals, and radioactive elements.

Supercomputer simulations and experiments carried out at the lab suggest that using supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2) may be a more efficient way of fracking shale. scCO2 combines mechanical and thermally induced fractures and has less of a flow-blocking effect than water.

Reducing water use and sequestering CO2 are central themes of two DOE crosscutting initiatives, SubTER (subsurface technology development for energy security and environmental responsibility) and the Water-Energy Nexus (interdependence between water and energy resources). The Los Alamos study also involves experimentation on shale cores provided by industry partner Chesapeake Energy. Read the informative six page article in 1663 online.

This article originally appeared in Oil IT Journal 2015 Issue # 9.

For more information or to comment on this topic email here.